An Alaskan Odyssey in Pictures

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  1. Quasiconvexity
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    These pictures are from a trip to Alaska we took this Summer (early August) - it was our first visit to Alaska, and we were simply blown away by its sheer scale and beauty. Our itinerary took us from Anchorage to Seward to Denali to Kennicott and back to Anchorage over a period of two weeks. I enjoy reading the TRs in this forum, so thought it would be fun to contribute!

    To begin, the obligatory points & miles references: we flew CO from SEA-ANC and back and the ride in F was very comfortable - it was my first time flying domestic F in CO, and I was pleased with the experience. Since it was a late night, we only had snacks (deli meat) but the seat and IFE were just great. We redeemed points to stay at the Sheraton in Anchorage and had a good experience overall. With rates north of $250 for much of the summer, the hotel presents a good deal for redemption (7K Starpoints/night) Due to our itinerary (that took us through Anchorage multiple times), we ended up staying thrice at the Sheraton and were assigned the same room type each time (room XX15, a junior suite). The club lounge had some snacks in the evening (no alcohol), but breakfast offerings were quite poor. We mainly used it to stock up on bottled water. We had breakfast at the restaurant once and the food was just about average (if that).

    Now that that's done, on to the rest of the trip. Enjoy!

    We began our trip in Vancouver (stayed there for a week), a city we really enjoy. Didnt take too many pictures of Vancouver this time - but it was as beautiful as ever.

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  2. Quasiconvexity
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    Driving from Anchorage to Seward (through Whittier) on the Seward Highway

    We began our trip by driving from Anchorage to Seward via the Seward Highway. The weather was rainy when we started in Anchorage but the skies soon cleared, and we had a great day for a drive. This has to be one of the most spectacular drives in America - the road is parallel to the coast much of the way, and offers dramatic views of the Chugach mountains. You can also spot a fair amount of wildlife along the way. The Alaskan railroad operates between Anchorage and Seward and we drove along one of their trains on the way as well.

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    Train winding through Turnagain arm
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    Views along Seward Highway
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  3. Quasiconvexity
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    Dramatic views en route to Whittier
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    Portage Glacier (with a tour boat in the foreground)
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  4. NYCAdventurer

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    nice pictures, now I want to go to Alaska even more than before!
     
  5. Quasiconvexity
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    PART II: Kenai Fjords National Park Tour & Exit Glacier

    We stayed overnight in Seward and got on to the 8am Kenai Fjords National Park Tour. This is a 6hr cruise that is focused on wildlife and also takes you to see a glacier. The weather was slightly overcast once again as we left Seward but improved through the course of the day. We thoroughly enjoyed the cruise, and got to see a wide variety of wildlife including some really cool whale sightings (couldnt manage to get great pictures though - it was gone in an instant).

    Seward, early in the morning
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    Thar she blows!
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  6. Quasiconvexity
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    Heading towards a glacier
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    Glacier wall (~100 ft high)
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    Other wildlife - seals and puffins
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  7. Quasiconvexity
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    Scenery shots

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    After the cruise, we drove up to Exit Glacier. Our initial plan was to hike the Harding Ice Field, but we didnt have great weather, and it was already late afternoon by the time we reached the glacier (it is an 8 hour hike round-trip!), so we decided to hike the ice field next time around.

    En route to Exit Glacier
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    Unusual spot for wedding photography (bride + bridesmaids)!
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  8. Quasiconvexity
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    Toe of Exit Glacier
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    UP NEXT: Denali National Park
     
  9. cennas
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    Excellent photos! Keep them coming :)
     
  10. Quasiconvexity
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    Making our way to Denali National Park

    After Seward, we drove down to Anchorage to spend a night there en route to Denali National park which was to be our next stop. On a side note, we really enjoyed our meals at Bombay Deluxe in Anchorage - really good Indian food at reasonable prices. We ended up going there multiple times during our time in Alaska. Also, the REI in Anchorage is truly awesome and has incredibly helpful and knowledgeable staff. The drive to Denali is very pleasant, and we were able to make good time. The last hour or so of the drive is very scenic as the Alaskan range comes into view. A few pictures from that portion of the drive.

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    Visiting Denali, esp in the peak Summer months, requires a fair amount of advance planning. Lodging inside the park is quite limited, and the prices are set to reflect that. On top of that, many of the lodges inside require 2-3 day minimum stays, and charge all-inclusive rates, so one can easily spend ~$700-$1000 a day in one of these lodges. There are various lodging options available just outside the park entrance - these are more reasonably priced, but one has to plan to take shuttles back and forth every day if one wants to visit the interiors of the park (which is where, in my opinion, the truly rewarding parts of the park are). The shuttle buses take approximately 6 hours from the park entrance to the very interior of the park, and cars are only allowed inside the park for the first 15 miles or so (unless you are camping at Teklanika campground). There are multiple campgrounds inside the park and these present a great option if you are on a budget and would like to stay in the park.

    We initially had 3 nights booked at Wonder Lake campground (which is the last campground in the Park coming in from the entrance) but then ended up not using it - we were coming in to Alaska after a week-long work trip, and didnt want to deal with the logistics of camping gear etc (we could have rented these from some outlets in Anchorage but didnt want to go through that hassle). We managed to find availability for a few nights at Skyline Lodge, which is really the only reasonably priced non-camping lodging option inside Denali. Rates run around ~$300 per night, inclusive of all meals. Restrooms and showers are shared, and all meals are in a family-style setting. This proved to be a great option, and we really enjoyed our stay here. The lodge is where the pilots of Kantishna Air Taxi stay, so it was fun to hang around with them and trade stories. We flew in one of their planes from the park entrance to Skyline lodge, and when we left a few days later, we took the bus back to the park entrance. This helped us save some time - we reached the park entrance from Anchorage in the afternoon (~3pm) and flew in for an early evening arrival.

    Our ride to Skyline lodge [​IMG]

    Train station inside the Park
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  11. Quasiconvexity
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    Denali National Park, as seen from above
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    Flying over Mt. McKinley (Highest point in North America)
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    UP NEXT: Exploring Denali National Park
     
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  12. Quasiconvexity
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    Thank you, kind sir - just posted another bunch, and getting ready to post another bunch shortly!
     
  13. Quasiconvexity
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    One of the major advantages of staying inside the park is that you get the opportunity to do spend a few hours exploring the park before the buses start coming in from the entrance. We got up early and got on to the first shuttle bus that leaves from Wonderlake around 8 in the morning. We were the only two people on the bus, and the driver took us on a leisurely drive stopping frequently on the way to point out interesting features. He stopped the bus near reflection pond and let us know it was a great spot for pictures and said we can take a 20 min break here before continuing. It was a clear day, and having the entire area almost to ourselves just felt magical. It is hard to convey it in words - hope the pictures do the trick.

    Reflection pond
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  14. Quasiconvexity
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    The driver then dropped us off near the starting point of the Mckinley Bar trail - this was an easy 3 mile hike down to the Mckinley river where one can get great views of the mountain (Mckinley). We were the only ones on the trail at this hour, and made good time and were greeted with terrific views of the mountain both on the way and once we reached the river.

    Mckinley seen from the Mckinley bar trail
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  15. Quasiconvexity
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    After spending some "alone time" with Mckinley, we hiked back up to where we had been dropped off, and caught the next shuttle all the way to Eielson visitor center. This is a gorgeous building and affords incredible views of the Alaskan range. We opted to go up the short alpine trail that took us above the visitor center - it is only around a mile or so but is uphill all the way but the view from the top was clearly worth it!
    Shuttle bus framed against the range
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    Views from Eielson and Alpine trail
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  16. Quasiconvexity
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    Park road winding through the national park
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  17. Quasiconvexity
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    While we were incredibly lucky with the weather and sightings of the mountain, we didnt do great with wildlife sightings inside the park. On our way out of the park, we saw a bear that had come to revisit its caribou hunting ground - the caribou carcass was still on the ground and apparently one of the drivers had spotted the fight the day before. We also saw a couple of moose on our way out close to the park entrance.

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    Thanks to those of you that have been following along. I will conclude this report in the next couple of days with some pictures from our days at Kennicott (which had equally spectacular scenery).
     
  18. Quasiconvexity
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    The last part of our trip took us to Wrangell - St Elias National Park and the former mining town of Kennicott. Wrangell-St Elias is less well-known (at least among outsiders) when compared to Denali, but is in fact the largest national park in the US, almost six times the size of Yellowstone! It is a little harder to access when compared to Denali, but the effort was well worth it. We picked up our car at the entrance from Denali, and started our drive. The plan was to drive to Chitina, and then take a short flight over to McCarthy/Kenicott, which was to be our base for the next four days. The drive to Chitina is about eight hours in all, and since it was already afternoon when we started, we had planned on taking a break in between. We spent the night at Sheep Mountain lodge near the Matanuska glacier; the lodge is located right off the Glenn highway has eleven small, but wonderfully maintained cabins, and also has a small bar/restaurant where we had dinner. The drive to Chitina was along the Glenn Highway which was incredibly scenic as well (although it was drizzling throughout so we couldnt take any pictures).

    We then drove up to Chitina and flew in to McCarthy using Wrangell Mountain air. The distance from Chitina to McCarthy is only around 60 miles, but it is on a gravel road, and many rental car companies forbid you from driving on this road. We usually enjoy driving, but thought we could save a few hours each way and spend more time at our destination; we also ended up booking a package rate at Kennicott Glacier lodge which included flights to/from McCarthy. The flight to McCarthy was fantastic, and was even more scenic than the one we had taken inside Denali. Some pictures below.

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    Erie Mine bunkhouse (One can hike up here, but we decided against it and hiked up to to Bonanza mine instead)
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    Root Glacier
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  19. Quasiconvexity
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    Kennicott is a former mining town, and is about five miles away from McCarthy. The entire town is designated as a historic landmark, and many of the historic town and mill buildings are currently being restored. It is an interesting town, and forms a fantastic base for exploring parts of Wrangell-st. Elias park. We stayed at Kennicott Glacier lodge, which is the main lodging option in town.

    Lynx on the road to the lodge
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    Kennicott Glacier Lodge
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    Buildings around town
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  20. Quasiconvexity
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  21. Quasiconvexity
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    We decided on hiking the trail to the Bonanza mines from the lodge on our first day. The trail is only around 9 miles round-trip, but is quite strenuous as the trail gains nearly 4000 ft in elevation on the way up (that is around 0.75 miles in elevation). The trail up snaked uphill relentlessly, but we were rewarded with jaw-dropping views along the way. We only saw three other people on the trail the whole time so it was a very serene experience. The following pictures are from the trail.
    Soapberries - bear food
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  22. Quasiconvexity
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  23. Quasiconvexity
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    Onward and upward!
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    In contemplation
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    Bonanza mine
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  24. Quasiconvexity
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    After the punishing but rewarding hike, we decided to take things easier the next day and signed up for a half-day glacier hike on the root glacier. This was an easy hike, and involved a short trek to the glacier (about an hour) followed by a couple of hours on the ice. After the calf-busting uphill climb of the Bonanza trek, it felt almost soothing to walk on the glacier.

    You can see people on the glacier looking like ants

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  25. Quasiconvexity
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    We decided to treat ourselves to some pizza after the trek - the pizza bus in Kennicott is great, and provides a great casual dining alternative to dining at the lodge.

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